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THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Say yes to vaccine


Rhonda Blackman

THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Say yes to vaccine

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When one thinks of sexual transmitted diseases and infections, HIV, syphilis gonorrhea and herpes come to mind. However, there is one infection unknown to some and one that never crosses the thinking of many – the human papillomavirus (HPV).
In fact it is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and many persons are unaware they have contracted it.
HPV is contracted or passed on during vaginal or anal sex, oral sex or genital to genital contact. It must be understood that it can be passed among homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships even when the infected person has no signs or symptoms.
There are more than 100 strains to the virus, and the body is able to fight off some of these strains. Of concern is the fact that there are some strains that cause warts (genital or otherwise) and others that cause cervical cancer. We need to ask the question ­– how many of our school aged children are aware of this sexually transmitted infection and its effects?
In light of the fact that many of our children are engaging in sexual intercourse well before the age of 14, the likelihood is there that they are exposing themselves to HPV and the likelihood of cervical cancer later on in life.
Health ministries across the globe have recognized the need to protect children from the virus and have introduced the HPV vaccine as a preventative method and to lower the chances of persons contracting the HPV virus. It is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 or 12 and is administered with the hope of protecting these children before they become sexually active. This is a costly exercise therefore some governments are administering the vaccine in the initial stage to girls only and will extend it to boys at a later stage.
There are two vaccines available (Cervarix and Gardasil) that offer protection against HPV that causes cervical cancer. Gardasil is also known to offer protection against most genital warts, and has been shown to protect against anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. It can also protect males against most genital warts and anal cancers.
Parents need to become educated on the HPV and also become tested to know their status. They need also to educate their children about the virus and the health risks and dangers of having unprotected sex, as well as having sex at an early age. It is also critical to provide relevant literature on HPV in the home and make it easily accessible to children.
Finally, parents need to ensure that their daughters/sons are protected from this virus and give the necessary consent to administer the vaccine.
Once your child has been exposed to the HPV before receiving the vaccine, the vaccine then serves no purpose. Cover your children before it is too late.
Give your girls a chance to a cervical cancer-free life and yours boys protection from warts and anal cancer. Say yes to the HPV vaccine.
 Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, national development scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.

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